EPL

Mudryk cameo offers encouragement but Chelsea and Liverpool live up to billing of mid-table mediocrity

By Sports Desk January 21, 2023

Jurgen Klopp's 1,000th match in management; the English top flight's 50,000th fixture – Chelsea's trip to Liverpool on Saturday wasn't short of milestones, intrigue or importance.

But there was certainly no surplus of quality at Anfield as two teams who've been feeling sorry for themselves for most of the season failed to produce the spark that could reignite their thoroughly underwhelming campaigns.

Graham Potter's men left with a 0-0 draw that Chelsea might ultimately be relatively happy with, but generally speaking it was a match devoid of brilliance, and by extension an indictment of two teams who should be faring far, far better.

It bears remembering that, in fairness, Liverpool and Chelsea played out draws in seven of their previous 17 Premier League meetings – but such tightness has also led to numerous classics down the years, helping stoke something of a competitive rivalry between the two.

Recent Premier League title winners, recent Champions League titlists – even with their respective injury woes and general struggles, surely this was still going to be a thriller?

There probably wasn't a more inappropriate description of the first half, a dour 45 minutes of football barely punctuated by any hints of ingenuity or quality.

Chelsea could argue they were the brighter of the teams. Kai Havertz had an early goal disallowed; Lewis Hall flashed a left-footed effort across the six-yard box; Benoit Badiashile headed at Alisson from close range.

But it was hardly sustained pressure, and you could make a case for all three incidents being caused more by poor Liverpool defending than attacking brilliance from Chelsea.

Of course, it cannot be overstated how many important players were absent for both teams – it's no fluke they began the weekend ninth and 10th in the league.

But even with the likes of Hall and Stefan Bajcetic starting, it wasn't as if either side resembled a creche. The starting XIs cost over £200million. Each.

Not even Mohamed Salah – a genuine superstar – could bring the desired quality, skying one attempt as he cut inside and onto his left foot. You know the one, the type of chance you'd almost expect him to finish last season... or any past campaign in Liverpool red.

A fairly tame Thiago Alcantara effort was Liverpool's first shot on target in the 39th minute.

There was undoubtedly a sense of Jurgen Klopp "getting into" – as Reds great Steven Gerrard put it during his punditry – Liverpool at half-time, as they began the second half on the front foot.

Within seconds of the restart, Ibrahima Konate surged forward and seemingly panicked with little else on. His toe-poke from about 50 yards almost crept into the top-left corner in an incident that seemed to sum up everything about the game until that point.

But Liverpool's intensity didn't last, their dip seemingly coinciding with the introduction of Mykhaylo Mudryk, who gave Chelsea a notable lift.

His first touch was heavy. Cue ironic cheers from the home fans.

But his next will have had the Kop staring wide-eyed in terror.

Conor Gallagher was tripped in the box and Mudryk pounced, remarkably dancing past three Liverpool defenders before drilling left-footed into the side-netting.

Relief was the expression written all over the Reds' defence – although only for a moment. Soon after he left James Milner for dead, luring the makeshift right-back into a lunge that brought a booking and his subsequent substitution for Trent Alexander-Arnold, deemed not fit enough to start.

Suddenly Chelsea were looking to Mudryk in virtually every attack. Two devilish Hakim Ziyech crosses sought him out at the back post – the first was met with a heavy touch, the second slightly too strong for him to divert goalwards.

The Ukrainian was also neat with his link-up play, delicately releasing Carney Chukwuemeka into the box twice with well-weighted passes, only for the youngster to stumble on the first occasion and then needlessly delay his shot for the second.

Mudryk wasn't enough to inspire a breakthrough, though. In fact, the game probably didn't deserve a goal, and you certainly couldn't say either team were particularly unfortunate not to win.

While Mudryk's cameo will have undoubtedly offered Chelsea some encouragement, the overriding conclusion from such an underwhelming contest was that both extremely expensively assembled teams still look like they could do with another £200m of investment.

Related items

  • Leicester City sign Tete on short-term deal Leicester City sign Tete on short-term deal

    Leicester City have completed a short-term deal for Brazilian winger Tete.

    The 22-year-old left Shakhtar Donetsk following the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, joining Lyon in March after players in the country were given permission by FIFA to suspend their contracts.

    After eight goals and nine assists in 30 appearances for the French side, Tete has made the move to the Premier League, although his new club confirmed he is due to return to Shakhtar at the end of the season.

    Upon signing for the Foxes, Tete told the club's media: "I'm really happy to be here. I've had a look at the pitch and the stadium, it's beautiful and I can already imagine what it'll be like with a lot of fans. I hope to score a lot of goals and assists. I hope they'll all be happy to see me play, I'm happy to be a Fox."

    Tete began his career at Gremio and has represented Brazil at under-20 and under-23 level.

    He could make his debut for Brendan Rodgers' side in their trip to Aston Villa on February 4.

  • Chelsea continue spending spree with Gusto signing Chelsea continue spending spree with Gusto signing

    Chelsea have continued their January spending spree with the signing of right-back Malo Gusto from Lyon.

    The France Under-21 international has signed a seven-and-a-half-year deal at Stamford Bridge, but he will spend the remainder of the 2022-23 season on loan at Lyon.

    Gusto, who has made 54 appearances for Lyon since making his debut in January 2021, is reported to have cost Chelsea an initial £26.3million (€29.9m) plus various add-ons.

    He becomes Chelsea's seventh signing of the window following the arrivals of Mykhaylo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke, Andrey Santos, David Datro Fofana and Joao Felix, the latter joining on loan from Atletico Madrid.

    The 19-year-old attacking full-back will provide long-term competition and cover for Reece James, who has missed the majority of this season through injury. 

    Chelsea are also rumoured to still be in the market for a central midfielder, having so far been frustrated in their attempt to sign Argentina World Cup star Enzo Fernandez from Benfica.

  • Ten Hag has no complaints over fixture schedule as Man Utd bid to end trophy drought Ten Hag has no complaints over fixture schedule as Man Utd bid to end trophy drought

    Erik ten Hag has no complaints with Manchester United's fixture schedule and insists his squad is deep enough to cope with challenging on multiple fronts in the second half of the season.

    United beat Reading 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday to advance to the last 16 of the FA Cup, while Wednesday's 3-0 first-leg win over Nottingham Forest means they are all but assured of a place in the EFL Cup final.

    The Red Devils are also still in Europa League contention, with a knockout play-off round tie against Barcelona on the horizon, and are fourth in the Premier League with 18 games to go.

    Ten Hag's side potentially have nine matches to come in February, but the Dutchman considers that a positive as United bid to end a six-year wait for a trophy.

    "I don't complain," he told reporters. "We know what the fixture schedule is; we have to deal with this.

    "At clubs we have to set squads and squads are big enough to deal with it and I think players like to play.

    "You can build and construct a good team when you play often and, in my perspective, when you play often the same you are getting the routines in."

    Ten Hag surprised many by naming a strong starting line-up against Championship side Reading, with Harry Maguire coming into the side as the only change from the Forest match, which followed on from a 3-2 league loss at Arsenal.

    "If you see everything in the perspective of the result, after a defeat we've bounced back," Ten Hag said. "I was happy with the performance at Arsenal, but we made mistakes.

    "We have to work on those mistakes but now twice we have had good performances and two good results."

    Casemiro's second-half double and a neat finish from Fred earned United victory over Reading, who had Andy Carroll sent off but pulled one back through Amadou Salif Mbengue.

    United lost key midfielder Christian Eriksen to injury prior to the hour mark, but Ten Hag says it is too early to determine if the Denmark international is going to spend any time on the sidelines.

    "It's always difficult to say in this moment so short after the game has finished," he said.

    "But it's an ankle [problem]. We have to see what the diagnosis is, so it will be a minimum of 24 hours before we know that and then I can say more."

    United are back in action on Wednesday with the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final against Forest, before returning to league action at home to Crystal Palace next weekend.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.